Films on Politics

Patriocracy

Documentary 2011 NR 1hr  26m. This incisive and timely documentary examines the extreme polarization of the U.S. political landscape and seeks to identify the underlying causes. Politicians, journalists and pundits share their theories regarding America’s current age of anxiety. See Full Review

The Power of Nightmares:
The Rise of the Politics of Fear

Documentary 2004 NR 180 minutes.  This three-part documentary explores the use of fear for political gain, given the lasting impact of 9/11 and with media sensationalism at an all-time high. This is not about nightmares, but instead about people in power who give us nightmares for their own benefit.  The first, “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” examines historical aspects of international threats. “The Phantom Victory” looks at how two disparate groups, radical Islamists and neo-conservatives, apply similar tactics. And “The Shadows in the Cave” asks the question, “Is organized terrorism an illusion?”  The facts revealed by this documentary series are very interesting and will change your perception of what they call the “War on Terror”.  See Full Review

House of Cards  (2013)

Drama Miniseries 2013 TV-MA.  A ruthless Congressman, Francis Underwood, and his ambitious wife Claire, will stop at nothing to conquer everything. This wicked political drama slithers through the back halls of greed, sex, love and corruption in modern D.C.

American Hustle

Docudrama 2013 R. This fictionalization of the “Abscam” (Arab scam) scandal of the early 1980s follows con man Irving Rosenfeld and his lover, Sydney Prosser, as they help an eccentric FBI agent expose corruption among several members of Congress in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The opening screen states:  “Some of this actually happened.” Christian Bale is hilarious and occasionally heart-wrenching as a con-man trying to make it big; Amy Adams is alluring as his mistress and partner; Bradley Cooper plays an FBI agent who exudes ambition and greed; and Jennifer Lawrence is excellent as an unbalanced wife.  And then you throw in a likeable mayor (Jeremy Renner) who believes he’s helping his city, corrupt politicians, and the mob. It deftly balances humor and serious drama. This is a silly, fun, and funny film with great acting and good dialogue.

Genius on Hold

Documentary 2013 PG 1hr31m. This tells the tale of how prolific inventor Walter L. Shaw saw his ideas stolen and his ambitions foiled by the powerful AT&T; monopoly. Fantastic and informative documentary (by PBS) about how AT&T; maneuvered the government for 107 years to be granted a monopoly — to the detriment of US innovation and destroying inventors’ lives. This film is a great depiction of Corporatism in America. If you enjoy history or business or telecommunications or organized crime or politics, this film intermingles all in a way I’ve never seen before. Great history, great lessons, great entertainment.

The Ides of March

Docudrama 2011 R 101 minutes. Dirty tricks stand to soil an ambitious young press spokesman’s idealism in a cutthroat presidential campaign where “victory” is relative. The film is inspired by the real-life experiences of an aide who worked on Howard Dean’s failed 2004 run. Youth and political idealism are casually sacrificed on the altar of unbridled political ambition. George Clooney plays Mike Morris, a liberal’s dream candidate — handsome, telegenic and sounding all the right liberal notes. Ryan Gosling plays a smart, up-and-coming member of Morris’ campaign staff as press secretary – a young believer in truth and fair play — and naive purist who must adapt or die in a world ruled by wolves in sheep’s clothing. Eat or be eaten in the dog eat dog world that is the United States political race. The first hour or so of this film centers around a hotly contested Democratic primary campaign. This shows some of the corruption, dishonor, and lies in politics. And the dirty tricks don’t stop with the candidates themselves; they trickle down into the machinations of political campaigns, and can affect the most innocent of all. In this dark story, Mike Morris (Clooney), a liberal, is running against a more conservative senator in a primary race – and the gloves eventually come off.

Sarah Palin: You Betcha!

Documentary 2011 NR 1hr  31m. Filmmaker Nick Broomfield tracks down friends, relatives and colleagues of polarizing Alaska politician Sarah Palin in this irreverent documentary. Among those interviewed are Palin’s father and plenty of folks with axes to grind. See Full Review

A Snowmobile for George

Documentary 2008 NR 1hr 34m. When former president Bush eased regulations that put a high-polluting snowmobile back on the road, filmmaker Todd Darling wanted to find out why. He and his family embarked on a cross-country journey that uncovered some surprising answers. This eye-opening documentary shines light on the often misunderstood subject of deregulation. Fortunately the doc is not entirely about snowmobiles. You will learn about the largest mass killing of salmon in what was once among the most healthy salmon populations; how a loophole in Wyoming’s land laws allow natural gas drilling without permission by land owners (smog in Wyoming is now worse than LA and water is undrinkable); little-known facts about the EPA’s deception following 9/11; and how George W. Bush’s political machine helped all this happen in the interest of votes and corporate profits. The Bush Administration really did deregulate all of the major industries that cause most of our planets pollution, which was done all in the name of profit & politics. It’s a sobering look at the collusion of industry, government and its regulatory bodies. Very instructive and well-made film on the immense perils of deregulation–the greatest of all the enormous sins of the Bush and the Obama administrations. For 13 years the mega-corporations have had it entirely their way, and there will be no way of stopping them until their advocates are voted out of Congress and the worst oligarchy-lovers on the Supreme Court are finally impeached. Despite the somber stories told by some of the subjects, the director avoids polarizing or preaching to his audience. The narrative is lighthearted and doesn’t attempt to rewire your political leanings in 90 minutes. Worth a watch. I really enjoyed watching this documentary. You will enjoy this movie, and you will want to share its stories with friends and family.

Ralph Nader
An Unreasonable Man

Documentary 2006 NR 2hr 2m. Thought-provoking and revealing, this biographical documentary profiles the personal and professional life of Ralph Nader, one of America’s most controversial consumer advocates and political activists. Interviews and archival footage help illuminate the career of an influential public figure whose willingness to take on big industry earned him a reputation as both a working-class hero and a public pariah after the 2000 presidential election. See Full Review

All the President’s Men

Docudrama 1976 PG 139 minutes. The film that launched a thousand journalism school students, All the President’s Men chronicles how the work of reporters Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) contributed to the public downfall of President Richard M. Nixon. The duo connected a Washington, D.C., hotel break-in with a Nixon “dirty tricks” team assigned to discredit Democratic rivals, launching a series of tense events that forced Nixon to resign. This story of the exposure of the Watergate break-in and subsequent coverup by two Washington Post reporters focuses attention on the inves­tigative journalism that has done so much to make Americans skeptical and even cynical about their nation’s institutions. See Full Review

The Most Dangerous Man in America:
Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers

Documentary 2009 NR 94 minutes. Revisiting a pivotal point in American history, this documentary chronicles Pentagon insider Daniel Ellsberg’s daring endeavor to leak top-secret government papers that disclosed shocking truths about the Vietnam War and Nixon’s presidency. This tells the story of Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers concerning cover-ups of the Vietnam War that he leaked to the press. I went with friends to see this tonight. Shame things have still not changed – they should have. They could have. We have all grown so dull minded & complacent. My idealistic heart shed a tear as I watched & remembered the 60s & 70s of my youth; while my realistic mind noted the small audience & realized we’re doomed. “Government exists for the interests of the governed, not for the governors”. Daniel Ellsberg and his family/friends tell their view of this very significant and fascinating bit of U.S. history, which remains an important reminder of the publics right to know, the medias right to publish, and the danger of cloaking (unilateral) presidential activities with secrecy in the name of national security. These are highly relevant issues, still today, and Ellsberg et al are highly articulate advocates for the First Amendment and the publics rightful role in responsible government.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Drama 1939 NR 129 minutes. When idealistic junior senator Jefferson Smith (James Stewart) arrives in Washington, D.C., he’s full of plans and dazzled by his surroundings — qualities he retains despite widespread corruption among his cynical colleagues. Jean Arthur puts in a sharp performance as Smith’s streetwise secretary, who helps him navigate his way through Congress, in this Academy Award-winning classic from director Frank Capra. See Full Review

Can Mr. Smith Get to Washington Anymore?

Documentary 2006 NR 82 minutes. Frank Popper’s engaging documentary follows the 2004 campaign of Jeff Smith, a young political science instructor at Washington University who runs for the seat vacated by retiring congressman Dick Gephardt. Pitted against state Rep. Russ Carnahan, the scion of a powerful political family, Smith proves that an unknown with no money can make a difference, forging a campaign that ultimately poses a serious challenge to Carnahan.

Gore Vidal:
The United States of Amnesia

Documentary 2013 NR 1hr29m. With interviews and footage from his television appearances, this documentary chronicles the life and career of outspoken writer Gore Vidal. I was elated to see him talking about unpopular topics like class struggle decades before Occupy Wall Street, exchanges with William F. Buckley in debates that today would cause Meet the Press cameras to melt. This is a well made overview of the highlights of his career. With the benefit of hindsight, Vidal is proven more prescient with each passing year. As soon as I was finished watching it, I watched it again the next day, fascinating!! I think he is basically correct about this country, and the truth hurts. He was a great disinfectant. I cannot recommend it enough!

Anytown, USA

Documentary 2005 NR 1hr 32m. This documentary follows the 2004 mayoral race in Bogota, N.J., detailing the foibles and petty grudges that can make small-town politics contentious.

Karl Rove
The Architect of President George W. Bush’s Reelection

Documentary Frontline 2005 NR 60 minutes. The acclaimed, hard-hitting PBS show Frontline takes on Karl Rove, so to speak, in this insightful profile of the man dubbed the architect of President George W. Bush’s return to the White House. As chief adviser and strategist, Rove has been a controversial figure in Washington. Get to know the very private politico largely believed to be one of the most powerful men of the Republican party, and see how he made his way to the top of the political chain.

Bush’s Brain

Documentary 2004 PG-13 80 minutes.  Based on a book by James C. Moore and Wayne Slater, this documentary examines how Karl Rove, President George W. Bush’s closest advisor, has shaped the policies of our nation, charting the role Rove has played in Bush’s rise to the top. Feared and admired by Republicans and Democrats alike, Rove’s remarkable political influence raises a disturbing question for Americans: Who really runs the country?

Boogie Man
The Lee Atwater Story

Documentary 2008 NR 88 minutes. This documentary from director Stefan Forbes examines the political and personal life of the late Lee Atwater, notorious for his no-holds-barred strategies that powered the campaign of George H.W. Bush. Forbes analyzes Atwater’s pivotal role in the rise of the Republican Party in the 1980s, and also documents a decidedly less partisan side of the strategist, including his passion for playing the blues.

Fahrenheit 9/11

Documentary 2004 R 122 minutes. Michael Moore’s hard-hitting documentary addresses the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, outlining the reasons the United States (and, in turn, thousands of innocent Americans) became a target for hatred and terrorism. The film not only criticizes President George W. Bush’s response to the attacks but also reinforces Moore’s theory that the Bush Administration used the tragic event to push its own political agenda.See Full Review

The Hunting of the President

Documentary 2004 UR 90 mins.  Morgan Freeman narrates this documentary that provides a sobering look inside the “vast right-wing conspiracy” that Hillary Clinton claimed was committed to driving her husband from the presidency.  Bill Clinton confidant Harry Thomason entertainingly chronicles a particularly tumultuous period in American politics, showcasing a cast of characters that includes Clinton foes such as Gennifer Flowers and Kenneth Starr.

Chisholm ’72:
Unbought and Unbossed

Documentary 2004 NR 76 minutes. Brooklyn-based Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm represented a series of firsts: She was the first African-American woman elected to Congress and the first black person and woman to run a serious, high-profile campaign in the U.S. presidential primary. She made further history when she vied for the presidency in 1972. And while her inspiring journey would have made headlines today, it was virtually ignored by the mainstream media at the time.

The Contender

Thriller 2000 R 127 minutes. Sen. Laine Hanson is nominated to be America’s first female vice president. But a right-wing stalwart seizes on a 20-year-old sex scandal to discredit her. Hanson refuses to confirm or deny the charge, sending Washington into a high-stakes crisis.

Wag the Dog

Satire 1997 R 110 minutes. When the president is caught in a sex scandal less than two weeks before the election, White House spinmaster Conrad Brean (Robert De Niro) creates a phony war with the help of Hollywood producer Stanley Motss (Dustin Hoffman) to distract the electorate. From acclaimed director Barry Levinson and writers Hilary Henkin and David Mamet comes this biting look at American politics and its insidious relationship with the media.

Nixon

Docudrama 1995 R 192 minutes. The Watergate scandal toppled the world’s most powerful man: United States president Richard Nixon (Anthony Hopkins). Director Oliver Stone re-creates the turbulent days of the early 1970s as a shadowy epic of lies and intrigue.

Canadian Bacon

Satire 1995 PGA. U.S. president (Alan Alda) tries to bolster his sagging approval rating by picking a fight with the unlikeliest of foes: Canada. After slick propaganda campaigns convince the American populace that the Great White North is the enemy, zealous patriot Bud B. Boomer (John Candy) takes matters into his own hands. Director Michael Moore’s first foray into feature films — a satire of the short-lived Persian Gulf War — was also one of Candy’s last.

True Colors

Drama 1991 R 111 minutes. In this absorbing morality play, two law-school roommates fulfill their ambitions by taking different paths, as one accepts a job at the Department of Justice, while the other enters the political fray — and becomes corrupted by the lust for power.

Nashville

Drama 1975 R 160 minutes. Countless characters, including Shelley Duvall, Keith Carradine, Ned Beatty and Karen Black, get caught up in a political rally that takes over Nashville in director Robert Altman’s sprawling satirical masterpiece about politics and country music. The many fine performances in this mosaic include Lily Tomlin’s bored housewife and Henry Gibson’s pompous, patriotic country singer. The actors also wrote and performed their own songs.

Advise and Consent

Drama 1962 NR 138 minutes. Henry Fonda stars as Robert Leffingwell, the president’s handpicked candidate for secretary of state, but a Senate committee has been assigned to investigate the nominee’s past, dredging up dirt and brewing a storm of scandal

Huey Long

Documentary Ken Burns’ America 1985 NR 1hr 30m. The world of American politics has long been peopled with interesting characters — but few of them have been more colorful than Huey P. Long. Award-winning documentary filmmaker Ken Burns captures the charisma that made Long the people’s politician, the “Kingfish.” This documentary explores Long’s life as a child, his ascent to power and his assassination in 1935.

All the King’s Men (1949)

Docudrama 1949 NR 110 minutes. Willie Stark (Broderick Crawford) is a model politician — until he’s corrupted by the very system he tries to reform. Based on the cautionary Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, the film was nominated for seven Academy Awards. It won Best Picture, as well as Best Actor and Actress for stars Crawford and Mercedes McCambridge (later the voice of the possessed Regan in The Exorcist). Stark’s character is based on Louisiana governor Huey Long.

All the King’s Men (2006)

Docudrama 2006 PG-13 128 minutes. Sean Penn stars as corrupt Southern politician Willie Stark — a charismatic man who wins the populist vote but, behind closed doors, is as underhanded as those he smeared — in this remake of an Oscar-winning 1949 film of the same name. Ex-reporter Jack Burden (Jude Law) unwittingly helps Stark gain political power, but it’s just a matter of time before the governor’s crooked dealings are exposed.

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